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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Think I Like My Own Novels (Maybe) by James L. Rubart

Do you like your own novels?

I'm not sure how I feel about mine.

My novel, The Chair was Christian Retailing’s TOP PICK for September 2011, was nominated for a Christy, is a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards, and I’ve received many reader e-mails about how much they loved the book.

But my reaction to all that has been: Really? You’re serious? Are we talking about the same book?
I’m not trying to be self-deprecating. It’s truly how I felt.

Why felt and not feel?

Because recently I recorded the audio version of The Chair (after being away from the book for more than a year) and as I read through the novel I caught myself thinking, “Hmmm, I guess that part isn’t completely horrible,” and “Hey, that works okay.”

Can you relate? Yes, I see that hand, and yes you in the back, I see yours as well, thank you.

A few weeks ago my son Taylor and his girlfriend, Mara, read my next novel, Soul’s Gate (releases this November). When I asked how they liked it, both said it’s their favorite out of the four I’ve written. Again, my reaction is, “Really?”

Help me. Why do we do that?

Maybe it’s because a novelist’s concentration as well as their editor’s is on what’s wrong with the book and where it needs to improve rather than on what’s working well. That of course has to be the focus, but I wonder if it skews my thinking after the novel is finished. You?

How long does it take for you to be away from something you’re written to get back and see there are elements that work well?

Do you don’t ever go back and read what you’ve written. If not, why not? And why is it easier for others to love our work more than we do?

James L. Rubart is the best-selling author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, and THE CHAIR. His fourth novel, SOUL'S GATE hits shelves in early November.

During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing which helps businesses and authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time he dirt bikes, hikes, golfs, takes photos, and occasionally does sleight of hand. No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives with his amazing wife and teenage sons in the Pacific Northwest and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Should Christians Read to "Escape"?

If the entertainment industry is any indication, modern man desperately needs to "escape." It's understandable when you consider how bleak things can appear -- globally, economically, and existentially. What better way to forget that you don't have a good job (if you have one at all),  your love life stinks, your knees are shot, an asteroid just missed striking earth, and the nuclear black market is thriving, than to get lost in a good book or movie? It's understandable that you'd want to escape. 

What I don't understand is why Christians are in need of doing so. I mean, Christians are supposed to have abundant life and be fully engaged in the world that is. So why do they read fiction to "escape"?

Yes, I realize there's those who've challenged the idea that escapism is fundamentally and exclusively negative. Like, J. R. R. Tolkien who wrote in his essay "On Fairy-Stories" that escapism, in its attempt to understand and envision a different reality, contained an element of emancipation. C. S. Lewis was also fond of suggesting that the usual enemies of escape were... jailers.

At the risk of sounding like one of those jailers, I get that some reading transports us to a very healthy place, one that fires our imagination and inspires us to right living. It just doesn't seem like a lot of Christians read fiction for that reason.

I recently heard a respected CBA agent conjecture that one of the reasons Historical fiction is so popular among Christian readers is that during hard economic times, people want to escape. And nothing says "escape" like petticoats, parasols, and remarkably clean-speaking pirates. But if you're reading because the economy sucks, perhaps you should be reading Making Ends Meet on a Shoestring Budget rather than Love Finds You as Far Away from the Here-and-Now as Possible.

Which leads me to ask,
  • Do Christians read books to sharpen their discernment or to give it a rest?
  • Do we read books to help us engage the world, or detach from it?
  • Do we read books to add excitement to our lives, or stave off terminal boredom?
  • Do we read books to help us love our spouses more, or create expectations that will never, ever, be matched?
  • Do we read books to think more, or think less?
  • Do we read books to enrich our time, or kill time?
  • Do we read books to revel in life or forget about our crappy existence?
Listen, I can definitely "escape" by reading Buck Rogers and the Venusian Vixens. Question is whether the planet I land on will be any better than the one I'm fleeing.

Mike Duran writes supernatural thrillers. He is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket, and is represented by the rockin' Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Mike's novels include The TellingThe Resurrection, and an ebook novella, Winterland.  You can visit his website at

Taking a Break- M. Laycock

We've had two young men and my mother-in-law staying with us for the past week. We're running a soccer Bible camp, hence the young men, and it was my mother-in-law's 89th birthday, hence her visit. It's turned out to be a fun time. We have three daughters, all grown and away, so having some guys around has been great, even if they do eat a bit more. Well, okay, a lot more. "Grandma" has been teaching them to play dominoes so there's lots of laughter happening around the kitchen table.

I'm on the run, doing registration, being the "go-fer," making meals, cookies, doing laundry, etc. etc. etc. I don't mind it at all, but trying to get to my computer for some extended writing time has been a challenge. I was getting rather stressed about that when I remembered something that happened a while ago in the parking lot of a local bookstore. 

My husband and I were heading for our car when I heard my name being called and looked back to see one of my favourite writers, a mentor and friend for some years, Sigmund Brouwer. I was pleased to bump into him because I'd sent him an email some time before about speaking at a writers' event and he hadn't replied. When I mentioned it he explained that when he's writing he doesn't do email. After chatting for a while we went our separate ways and I commented to my husband, "I wonder what would happen if I ignored my email for that long?"  

"The world would stop spinning and fall of its axis," he said. His sardonic reply made me grin and it gave me some much-needed perspective. Having just gone through a whole year during which I could neither do much writing nor involve myself in most of the other endeavours in which I usually engage, I have come to realize that I'm not totally indispensible and a break in routine doesn't necessarily mean disaster. The world didn't stop spinning. Life did go on even if I had to take a break from some things. And the slower rhythm of life gave me time to ponder and listen and sometimes just enjoy.

So, with this week getting more and more busy I gave myself permission to take a break from the writing regimen I'd set out for myself to finish my latest w.i.p. The pause will throw the schedule off a bit, but it won't stop the world from spinning. As soon as I made that decision the week immediately became less stressful and a lot more fun. It reminded me of one of my favourite verses from The Message my Eugene Peterson - 

“I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 
Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. 
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. 
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11: 28-30)

"The unforced rhythms of grace." Words to ponder, words to build into our lives, as we take the time to "keep company" with the Lord, draw closer to those around us and closer to the interior workings of our thoughts and emotions, motives and dreams.

How about you? Is it time to give yourself permission to take a break? 

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone and also has two devotional books in print. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. Marcia's second novel, A Tumbled Stone has just been released. Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers can be downloaded here. Visit Marcia's website

Saturday, July 28, 2012

High Concept Plots ~ What Are They and Why Do I Care?

What is a high concept plot? This is the million-dollar question. Different people have different answers, and after reading a lot about it, I haven’t found the definitive answer. I have come up with some theories about high concept novels, though.
First Theory: high concept stories sell because they're  a little shocking

In his excellent article on high concept, Steve Kaire says: 
In seeking originality, we are not talking about reinventing the wheel. We can take traditional subject matter that's been done before and add a hook or twist to it which then qualifies the material as original. Using the kidnapping plot, there have been dozens of films which covered that subject area before. In the film Ransom, Mel Gibson plays a wealthy businessman whose son is kidnapped. That story in itself offers nothing new. The hook of the movie which makes it original is that instead of paying the ransom, Gibson uses the ransom money to pay for a contract hit on the kidnappers. That twist makes the film original and therefore High Concept.
Some plots are familiar and comfortable. There's room for such stories. But if you're trying to break in with agents and editors, I'm guessing something fresh is the way to go. When I’m judging fifty contest entries, I want something to POP off the page. And when agents and editors are reading through their hundreds upon hundreds of queries, they want the same thing. They want to be grabbed by something new and improved.

But they don’t want something so new that they don’t know what to do with it. They seem to want, most often, a fresh twist on an old idea.
Second Theory: high concept stories sell because they're familiar

We want something we loved in the past. We don’t want to commit to a journey into a strange and far-away place without having at least a trusted guide with us. What if we get lost? What if the food makes us sick? We need a security blanket with us, when you push us to try something fresh and exciting.

This is why people sometimes pitch high concepts using pitches that marry two familiar stories or concepts to give them a strange new feel:

  • Godzilla in Disneyland = Jurassic Park
  • Rags to riches story at the race track = Seabiscuit
  • Oliver Twist meets Superman = Harry Potter 
Third Theory: high concept stories sell because of they're universal 

They are universally appealing to your audience, I mean. I’m writing middle grade and young adult books for young readers, so if I’m looking for high concepts, I need to make sure my ideas appeal to young readers. They should plug readers into one or two of the following shared experiences or desires. 

My themes, settings, characters, and plots should be universally: 

·       longed-for
o   acceptance, a happy ending, security, success, a cause greater than ourselves, the hope of a creator who loves us and will take care of us, the desire to be worthy of love, the desire to live with integrity, the desire to save the world
·       feared
o   pain, death, being unloved, being the object of ridicule, being vulnerable
§  which play out in things like: suicide, 9/11, terrorist attack, shark attack, the dark, gym class
·       experienced (by us or by someone close to us)
o   school, parents, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, first kiss, success, failure, embarrassment, divorced parents, learning to drive, moving away from home, blamed for something you didn’t do
·       held with passion (loved or hated—controversy sells)
o   homosexuality, environmentalism, religion, spirituality, suicide, pregnancy, abortion
·       intriguing—what would you do?
o   what would you do if someone left a recording, blaming you for her suicide? (Th1rteen R3asons Why) What would you do if a vampire fell in love with you? (Twilight) What would you do if all the adults in the wold disappeared in one night? (Gone)
·       unexpected—they offer the twist
o   TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY was a twist on suicide, TWILIGHT was a twist on Eve and the forbidden fruit. ARTEMIS FOWL offers the twist on the fairy story with his fairies, and their L.E.P. Recon force, being sophisticated and using advanced technology, and with the child criminal mastermind who really loves his parents. (Let’s face it, Eoin Colfer’s books are full of twists—he has a twisted mind, I guess. I adore his books.)
·       known (a person or event)
o   Armageddon, Jack the Ripper, Atlantis, the president’s daughter, princesses,  
·       cool
o   super powers, bad boys who love good girls, take-charge heroines, looking inside yourself for the power to defeat your enemies

Okay. Those are my theories. What do you think? When you map out your books, do you ask yourself 1) what’s the universal hook? 2) what’s the familiar hook? and 3) what’s the fresh new twist? Do you think I’m right to say that this is the next level we have to take our writing to if we want to sell agents and editors on our stories? 

photo credit: Espen Faugstad via photo pin cc

 has published short works in a number of places, has won various and sundry contests, and has received an SCBWI Work in Progress grant. She's between agents at present, and can be found blogging about young adult novels at

Friday, July 27, 2012

YA Author Alan Gratz—Interviewed

YA Author, Alan Gratz

I recently had a chance to spend some time with Alan when we were teaching at the same writers conference. After just five minutes with him, I knew I wanted to introduce him to you. 

Alan's first novel, Samurai Shortstop, was named one of the ALA's 2007 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults. His teen mystery Something Rotten was a 2008 ALA Quick Pick for Young Adult Readers, and a sequel, Something Wicked, hit shelves in October 2008. His first true middle grade novel, The Brooklyn Nine, was among Booklist's Top Ten Sports Books and Top Ten Historical Books for Youth, and was followed in 2011 by the fantasy/sports mash-up Fantasy Baseball. His latest novel is Starfleet Academy: The Assassination Game, a novel set in the world of the recent Star Trek movie reboot. His short fiction has appeared in Knoxville's Metropulse magazine, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, and in the anthologies Half-Minute Horrors and Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction, benefiting victims of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. A Knoxville, Tennessee native, Alan is now a full-time writer living in Western North Carolina with his wife and daughter. Visit Alan’s website here.

So many aspiring writers think there is a set path to getting published, would you tell us about your journey to publication?
Right. So, obviously, there is no one path to publication. And mine is probably very different than most who will sell their first book in the coming weeks, months, and years. I started writing specifically for the middle grade and young adult markets in 1999. In the meantime, I did a variety of jobs that had to do with books and writing: I worked in the marketing department of a group of bookstores, wrote radio commercials for a group of radio stations, taught eighth grade English, and worked as a shelver at a public library. I read a lot of writing books, wrote a lot of bad pages, and went to a lot of writing conferences, including everything my local SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) chapter had to offer.
From 1999 to 2002 I wrote and submitted two novels unsuccessfully before selling my third attempt, Samurai Shortstop, through the slush pile to an editor at Dial Books in 2003. Samurai Shortstop came out in 2006, and I've been lucky enough to sell about a book a year since then. I was unagented when I sold Samurai. I got an agent through that sale, but things didn't work out between us and I parted ways before selling another two books on my own to my editor at Dial. I later got another agent whom I'm still with and with whom I'm very happy, and I've since sold books to two other publishers.

I love your books, can you give me an idea of your process for mapping out the story? Are you a full-on plotter or more of an intuitive writer?
I'm a full-on plotter. I spend a lot of time on an outline before I ever write the first word. I have a big board in my office where I pin up note cards, and I plot out every single chapter and plot turn. Things change a little as I write the books, of course, but for me those are like little side trips I can take knowing I have a road map to follow to get back on track. Once I have the story plotted out on note cards, I type those up on the computer in more detail, filling in the little unknown parts I've left for myself like "Nate fights some kind of Math-inspired demon here." My outlines are typically anywhere from 30-50 pages long, depending on whether I have historical research notes to attach to each chapter or not. I print out the pages and put them in a notebook, and then when I'm ready to write the first draft I open my notebook to Chapter One, and I know exactly what I'm supposed to write. Separating WHAT I write from HOW I write was a big step forward for me.

What are some of the major changes you’ve seen in the industry since you began and how have they affected you as an author?
The biggest thing has to be the rise of the Children's Book Agents. When I began to submit, I sent my manuscripts to both agents and editors. Most of the agent responses I got were photocopied rejections, and more than a few of them said, "The Writers Market listed us wrong; we aren't interested in children's books." It was the editorial rejection letters that were more helpful. Every now and I then I would get one that told me what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong, and inviting me to resubmit or send them whatever I wrote next. I eventually stopped subbing to agents altogether, and for years my advice to unpublished writers was to skip agents and go right to editors. I now tell unpublished writers the exact opposite. It's nothing the editors have done, it's all about the rise of the children's book agent. There are so many more agents who specialize in children's books now, and the market is different too. If you're writing what's hot (which right now, for example, is paranormal YA) you definitely will want (and can get) an agent.
How have the changes affected me? Well, not a ton, as I have an agent and I'm not a new author. But more agents means more books sold for bigger advances, and bigger advances mean publishers are always looking for bigger books. That's a good thing for the industry, but it makes smaller books harder to sell and makes it more difficult for those books to find their audience.

If you had a crystal ball, give us your predictions on how readers will enjoy books ten years from now.
E-readers are here to stay. I don't think the print book will ever go away entirely, but as children are trained to consume media on PDAs, ebooks will become the major way generations to come read books. In the short term, I think ebooks will take the place of a lot of trade paper sales--that is, those medium-sized books that are a little smaller than hardcovers, but still paperback. Most people don't buy those to collect them; they just buy them to read them. I think that part of the market will be hit the most. Eventually, I think we'll see much smaller print runs on hardcovers too, and hardcovers will be more like "collector's editions," possibly with a higher production quality, like a McSweeney's or Chronicle hardcover is now.

If you could share anything with an aspiring author what would it be?
Read the kind of books you want to write. Write lots of pages. Go to conferences. Submit. Then submit again. And submit again. If you do all those things over and over again, if you get to know your field, and how to be professional, and last but not least, if you are able to advance your craft and become a good writer, you will sell a book. It's just a matter of persistence. But it's not just persistence in submitting. It's all of it, all the time. And it doesn't stop once you sell your first book either.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Play Observation!

Do you ever find yourself surreptitiously watching other people—from a safe distance—and creating in your mind a scene based on what you’re seeing? This is one of my favorite games, Observation. I will often play this game along with Listen Closely—which some wrong-minded, nonwriter types insist is really called Eavesdropping. Silly uninformed noncreatives. Sometimes I even call it Research.

Creativity booster

But what all of these games have in common is they can be used to kickstart your creativity. When my brain seems full of cotton and my fingers are unresponsive stubs, I can often get started again by playing Observation. Let’s try it! Here’s a photo I pulled from a free photo site. What’s the story going on here? What can we tell about these people by observing this scene?
  • Probably a family. Could be a blended family (kids with different color hair), but not necessarily.
  • The family values reading for entertainment and instruction. They are reading The Lorax.
  • Whoever they are, they are probably at home. Casually attired, barefoot, huddled close together as people do in their natural environment. Oh, and they are downstairs—see that railing behind the dark-haired girls? Are they downstairs on the mainfloor or in the basement? Whichever better suits your imagination.
  • The little blonde girl in the pink is not engaged in storytime. She’s more interested in the photographer.
  • The mom, with her glasses and hair pulled back, seems a little severe.

The story

More observation would yield even more details, but here’s the story that came to my mind (POV person is the photographer):  

Just like Meghan to orchestrate a scene. Trying to use the kids and the lie of “domestic traquility” to make me change my mind. But this time I’m really leaving. 

I’d like to stay. I’d like to believe the lie. Wouldn’t that be nice? But manipulation and exclusion are the tools she uses to control her world, including her kids and me. 

Pookie sees the truth, and that kills me. She’s far too perceptive for a four-year-old—but strong too. She’ll be okay. She has to be okay. 
“Goodbye, Pook. Daddy loves you.”


Now this storyline is not a real exciting—or even original—idea. But that’s not the point. The point is that it has sparked my creativity and I can now turn to my WIP, renewed.

Who knows what might come out of me taking 30 minutes to play Observation? And it can work for you too.

Here’s another photo. Make your observations about what’s going on here and then share the storyline that comes to mind as a result in the comments.

Michael Ehret loves to play with words and as editor of the ACFW Journal, he is enjoying a new playground. He also plays with words as a freelance editor/writer at and as a contributor here on Novel Rocket. He has edited several nonfiction books, played with words as a corporate communicator, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Putting Your Backside in the Chair When it's a Pain in the Tush!

Patty Smith Hall has been making up stories to keep herself occupied since her parents forced her on boring Sunday drives into the Georgia countryside when she was too young to stay home by herself. Now she's happy to share her wild imagination and love of history with others, including her husband of 29 years, Danny, two smart and gorgeous daughters, and a Yorkie she spoils like a grandbaby. She resides in North Georgia.

Putting Your Backside in the Chair 
When it's a Pain in the Tush!

Writers are always told that one key to getting a publishing contract is to ‘put your backside in a chair and write!’ But what if you physically can’t sit for any length of time without being in a great deal of pain? What do you do then?

For the last four years, I’ve been going through a season of suffering. I won’t go into the whole boring medical explanations behind it, except to say that finding a chair that doesn’t leave me in tears after just a couple of minutes has become my holy grail. And yet I know, like others visiting today, I’ve been called to write.

So how do writers who face chronic, debilitating pain write?

Stay in Constant Prayer
Dealing with constant pain usually does one of two things to a person; either it sends you running in every direction, chasing every lead for a reason for the pain, a ‘why’ behind the agony or it drives you to your knees. I’ve done both. But one very important question I’ve put before God (besides the whole ‘why me?’) is if writing is in His plan for me. I wanted to make sure I was in God’s will and had to prepare myself if God required me give up writing or the hope of publication. It’s a dark place at times, but also one where your faith is stretched in new ways each and every second of the day. 

Equally important is the need to be ready to handle the pain if He sends confirmation to continue writing. Working through chronic pain or illness takes a inhuman toughness only God can give. So I’ve turned even more to His Word for encouragement. Sticky notes on my computer with scriptures--my favorites are 2 Corinthians 12:9 and Romans 8:28.

Finding a way to write
Okay, you’re prayed up, know that God wants to you write, even got your scriptures to encourage you--now what? How do you get your ‘backside in a chair’ when it’s a pain in the tush?

1)  Standing desk and ergonomic rug
One of my favorite people (and best selling novelist!) Camy Tang came up with a wonderful idea to deal with her chronic back issues. At her desk, she keeps a box that she places on her desktop when she feels the need to stand. It’s the perfect height for her computer and allows her to continue working while giving her a chance to stand and stretch.  If you have an island in your kitchen, that’s also a great place to work without having to sit. If you want something a little more decorative, there are many standing desks available on Amazon, starting for as little as $50.

Another important item that works wonders is an ergonomic rug. These are designed to help relieve fatigue on the lower extremities and is well worth the price (which can range anywhere from $30 to well into the hundreds.) I’d suggest you try it out first--yes, you may look crazy, standing on a rug in the middle of Bed, Bath and Beyond but better to make sure it’s the right rug for you than waste money.

1)  Alphasmart word processor
You’re sitting at your desk or in your favorite chair, ready to write and it’s just not comfortable. You fidget for a few minutes, hoping to find that perfect position but it just isn’t happening. Maybe the chair upstairs would work but that means dragging your computer up a flight of steps and you’re not even sure you can make it without falling down. That’s where an Alphasmart can help. Weighing under a pound, this portable word processor has eight individual files which can save multiple chapters and be downloaded into Word with just the press of a button. And you don’t have to worry about tripping over cables--four AA batteries is all you need to keep writing for months at a time.

1)  Egg Timer
I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I get writing, time just slips away from me. I’ll look up and two hours would have gone by. Good for my book. Not at all good for my back. So now I keep an egg timer on my desk and set it for 35 minutes. When that bell goes off, I stand up and move. Take a bathroom break. Fold a dryer full of clothes. Anything to get moving. Then I go back to my desk and reset my timer. I may not write as much but I’m not in as much pain either.

1)  Digital pen
The pain is so bad, you can’t even sit up. So now that you’re flat on your back, what do you do? Consider a digital pen. A bit thicker than a standard pen, it has the capability to transfer your writing into Word files while also serving as a recording. It’s not for everyone, and it’s expensive starting at $119 (plus the specialized notebooks.) So once again, try it before you buy it.

5) Pen and paper
Old fashioned, yes, but when you’re flat on your back and desperate to write, it’s an easy alternative. Not much of an added expense - I can buy my favorite pens and writing tablet for under $5. With the back-to-school sales beginning, you can stock up on notebooks and pens for later. Yes, your writing will still need to be typed into the computer but writing freestyle is very liberating. I’ve written the first draft of my last four books like this. It’s slower, but still gets the job done. 

Hearts in Hiding

Engineer Edie Michaels loves her life—she has a good job, close friends, even a chance at romance with former soldier Beau Daniels. But she could lose everything if her secret comes out that she's the German daughter of a devoted Nazi. When her father sends spies to force her loyalty, everything Edie values is at risk.

Time in a Nazi POW camp changed army medic Beau Daniels. When he discovers a letter of Edie's written in German, he can't help his suspicions. Is she truly the woman he's started to love? Or has she been the enemy all along? With Nazis on Edie's trail, the pair must fight for truth, for survival—and for love.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Debut Author, Paula Mowery, on Getting it Written Despite Life

Paula Mowery is a pastor’s wife and homeschool mom. She's always been an avid reader of Christian fiction. She began writing nonfiction, creating Bible studies. She crafted fiction stories which she shared with friends and family. When one of her readers encouraged her to pursue publication, she joined American Christian Fiction Writers, learning more about the world of fiction. Her debut novella is published by Harbourlight, a division of Pelican Book Group – THE BLESSING SEER. 

Read more of her writing in her monthly columns on

Writing is a journey. How did your journey to publication begin? 

I have always been an avid reader of Christian fiction. My mother worked for a Christian bookstore keeping me in fresh supply of books to read as well as blank journals to write in. I became an English teacher and always saw it as my personal goal each year to get my students into reading and writing – not seeing it as a chore. When I quit teaching in public school to focus on homeschooling my daughter, I continued to write “on the side.” I began to allow some friends to read my stories. One in particular said: “Why don’t you try to get published?” I didn’t really have an answer except for: Why didn’t I? I began to seek out courses and joined ACFW. I’ve learned so much from all of the wonderful Christian authors I had the privilege to interact with online. Every time I finished a book, God would push me on to another one until I had over 15 manuscripts stacked under my desk.  

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey? 

Two summers ago I decided to put out my fleece to God. I prayed asking Him to give me a sign as to whether I was to try to publish my stories or if they were only for private use. The next morning I got an email from a national magazine accepting an article I had submitted. I felt like God was saying: “Yes, I want you to pursue publishing your stories because I gave them to you.” So, I prepared THE BLESSING SEER for submission and as my finger hovered over the send button, I prayed: “Lord, if this is where you want this story, let it touch someone there.” I received an email back from the editor and the first line of the email said: “I was so touched by this story.” I smiled at God. 

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities? 

I’m a pastor’s wife and a homeschool mom. I also often provide childcare in my home for babies and toddlers from our church whose parents must both work. I’m like any other Mom – it’s a balancing act. I’ve been known to write a scene in a spiral notebook while stirring supper on the stove. You’ll normally find me toting my latest writing project around in my backpack so I can write in the car. The key for me at this stage in life is to take advantage of every snippet of time. It is a challenge when I’m itching to write and can’t stop to do it. I do get frustrated with that situation sometimes. Normally, I’ll jot down some notes so I don’t forget.
How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling? 

In my case this writing thing is a calling from God. It’s amazing to me how I can write out a scene and look back and think: “How did that spiritual truth get in there?” I tend to write with lots of emotion and faith mixed in. This comes naturally I think from all of my experiences being a pastor’s wife. The point of everything I write is to touch the reader in some way for Christ either toward a relationship with Him or encouraging a deeper bond with Him. 

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?

As already mentioned, I’ve been told that my stories are emotion-packed. I draw from the church members we have been able to walk with and through crisis and joy. I draw from those emotions to make my characters real. 

Finish this sentence. The best piece of advice I can give to a new author is. . .

Hone your craft by joining a writing group and taking a course. 

Cubby Hole, corner of the couch, or office, where do you write?

I do finally have my little corner with my small student desk, but I have writing notebooks, will travel. My dream would be an L-shaped desk where I could have the computer on one area and a writing surface on the other. Maybe someday.
What writing tool, (Flip Dictionary, workshop, index cards, etc.), have you found to enrich your writing?

I always have a dictionary on hand. But, I’m very old-school in that I write first drafts in spiral notebooks with a pencil. When I transfer the stories to the computer, I then print out the pages and put them in a three-ring notebook where I begin revisions. 
What’s next for you?

I am working on two projects with two groups of authors that I am very excited about. These will be a collection of novellas with similar themes. I also am working to revise those other 15 manuscripts that God had me to stack under my desk. You might see a sequel to THE BLESSING SEER. 

Any parting words? 

I so appreciate the opportunity to appear on Novel Rocket. This blog has been the greatest classroom for me. I never miss it. So much good information for writers at every stage. 

The Blessing Seer

When God sends Addy a special messenger who challenges her to step from her comfort zone, she isn’t sure she’s up to the job. She feels inadequate to take on the task of encouraging others, and when she starts seeing visions, she worries she’s losing her mind.
Yet, Addy wants only to be used by God, even if that means seeing visions and risking relationship with family and friends. By stepping out on a limb, can Addy really accomplish something significant for God? What affect will her surrender to His will have on those around her? And, what affect will it have on her own life?

Published by Pelican Book Group – Harbourlight Imprint

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Take Me to Your Manuscript

Depending on the genre, you still might have time to enter this year's LAUNCH PAD Contest: Boosting You Out of the Slush Pile. Here's the schedule:

We're accepting Middle Grade/Young Adult entries through August 10.

The submission deadline for Contemporary Romance is September 10.

If your story involves little green men or other such nifty things, you can send your SciFi/Fantasy/ Horror entry anytime between now and October 10.

The judges are currently reading the Contemporary Fiction/Women's Fiction entries, and it's going to be tough to pick a winner, let me tell you. We've received a record number of entries in this category, and there's lots of good stuff here.

Feeling bold and daring? Check out the complete rules on the Launch Pad Contest tab above. Send us the entry form along with the synopsis and the manuscript's first 3- to 4000 words, and click on the PayPal button to pay the entry fee. Whether or not you win, you'll get two professional critiques. So quit hiding and get submitting!

When she's not writing fiction that takes you out of this world, Yvonne Anderson serves as our contest administrator. The first novel in her Gateway to Gannah series, The Story in the Stars, is a finalist for the ACFW Carol Award for Speculative Fiction. The second, Words in the Wind, releases August 1. She blogs at